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US Senate to vote on ES cells soon?

22 May 2006
Appeared in BioNews 359

Nancy Reagan, former first lady of the US, has reiterated her calls for federal legislation supporting embryonic stem cell (ES) research. Earlier this month, she published a personal letter that she had written to Senator Orrin Hatch, saying that she wants to see debate and a vote on bill HR 810 - known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 - in the US Senate.

A vote on ES cells could see the Senate going against policy put in place by President George Bush. Bush, who opposes any research that would involve the destruction of human embryos, announced on 9 August 2001 that no federal funds would be available for researchers working on human ES cells created after that date. US scientists have since complained that this policy restricts their research and leaves only less effective ES cell lines for them to work with, as ES cells created before that date were created using mouse 'feeder' cells. But when a bill loosening the restrictions was passed by the House of Representatives last May, Bush pledged to veto any federal legislation that would relax the policy on ES cell research conducted by federally funded researchers. That bill - which would allow federal funds to be used for research on ES cells derived from embryos left over from fertility treatments and voluntarily donated by patients - was passed in the House by 238 votes to 194. That majority is not enough to allow a Presidential veto to be overridden - but Senator Arlen Specter said at the time that he was confident that the necessary two thirds majority is achievable in the Senate.

Senator Hatch, who is in favour of the bill, said that he wants Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, to schedule the bill for debate in the Senate before 24 May - a full year after the bill passed through the House. Nancy Reagan, a known supporter of ES cell research, echoed this in her letter. 'For those waiting every day for scientific progress to help their loved ones, the wait for US Senate action has been very difficult and hard to comprehend', she wrote. Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) said in a press statement that the Senate should pass bill HR 810 'with no amendments and no alternatives'. Senator Arlen Specter, who sponsors the bill, said that he has had negotiations with Frist about bringing the bill to the floor of the Senate, and expects to 'reach a deal' soon.
Following Nancy Reagan's letter, CAMR released the results of a poll that show the majority of US citizens support ES cell research. According to the survey, 72 per cent of Americans favour ES cell research. Senators from both parties - as well as groups such as the American Diabetes Association - are now using these figures to show that there should be further debate on the legislation.

Meanwhile, individual states continue to establish their own stem cell regulations. The Senate of the US state of New Jersey last week voted in favour of a bill that will provide $250 million of state funds to establish stem cell research centres in Camden, New Brunswick and Newark. Senators voted 29-10 in favour of the provisions, sponsored by Democrat Senate President Richard Codey. The money will be gained by borrowing against the future revenue to be brought in by a new tax on cigarettes in the state. The bill now passes to the state Assembly, where it might be modified slightly, but is still expected to find favour.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan Urges Senate To Vote On HR. 810
CAMR |  16 May 2006
Lawmakers Urge Frist To Open Debate on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill; Majority of U.S. Residents Support Such Research, Poll Says
Kaiser Network |  17 May 2006
Nancy Reagan Supports Stem Cell Bill
The New York Times |  16 May 2006
Stem cell bill wins Senate approval
New Jersey Ledger |  19 May 2006
17 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The US Senate has begun debating a bill on embryonic stem cell ES cell) research that will, if passed, extend the provision of federal funding for such research. The bill - known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810) - is being debated alongside two...
3 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The US Senate may soon be due to vote on a bill to expand the availability of federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced last week that he will schedule a vote sometime this month on the bill...
13 March 2006 - by BioNews 
The Senate of the US state of Maryland has approved a bill that would establish guidelines for state funding of stem cell research, by 29 votes to 18. However, unlike the bill passed recently by the House of Delegates (HB1), which would authorise $25 million for such work, the Senate...
20 June 2005 - by BioNews 
Senators in the US will start to debate a bill on the issue of human embryonic stem (ES) cell research next month. A bipartisan group of senators is campaigning to persuade President Bush to relax his policy on the research. Bush, who opposes any research that would involve the destruction...
23 May 2005 - by BioNews 
In the wake of cloning and embryonic stem (ES) cell news from scientists in South Korea and the UK, a vote on legislation to extend the provisions of state funding for ES cell research in the US is expected in Congress this week. However, President Bush - who announced his disapproval...
16 May 2005 - by BioNews 
According to a recent poll, approximately 57 per cent of Republican voters in the US support human embryonic stem (ES) cell research, while 40 per cent oppose it. The survey, conducted by pollster David Winston, also showed that despite strong approval among republican voters for President Bush (90 per cent...
28 July 2004 - by BioNews 
Ron Reagan, the son of the late US president Ronald Reagan, has urged Democrat supporters to vote for candidates who would relax policy on human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Speaking at the Democrat National Convention (DNC) on Tuesday, he told delegates that while he understood there were ethical and...
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